Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and I hope you find your next jam this week!
Half of this week’s playlist is what I’d consider "rock music," and it makes for an interesting glance at the genre’s current state. Mom-friendly stadium stuff, brooding poetics, angry anthems, bluesy crooning, and a blast from the past from the Boss: it’s all been released in the last week. The guitar party is also tempered by a bunch of assertive, rhythmic pop from the likes of Chairlift, Kelela, and Selena Gomez.
One more note: I’ll be on The Verge’s Periscope this afternoon for a chat about this week’s playlist and anything else going on in music right now. I’ll be doing so weekly after this column gets posted on Friday afternoons, so be sure to tune in!
Bruce Springsteen, "Meet Me in the City":
The Ties That Bind: The River Collection is going to become Bruce Springsteen’s newest box set when it’s released this December; if its assorted outtakes are half as good as those collected on 2010’s The Promise, it’ll make a worthy listen. "Meet Me in the City" is a solid start: it’s a classic romp, one you could’ve told me was meant for Born to Run. The pianos are bright, the horns are wailing, and the Boss just wants to find something real. This brings me right back to high school nights spent driving around town in a pick-up truck with the windows down. It’s a cliché, sure — but it’s a good one, right?
City and Colour, "If I Should Go Before You":
If you’re looking at Dallas Green’s discography for the first time, it’s hard to figure out where his heart really lies. He’s spent a decade making luminous folk on his own as City and Colour; he softened Alexisonfire’s raging post-hardcore with tender vocal work throughout the ‘00s; he made a collaborative album with P!nk (yes, really) last year. Green’s never sounded more soulful than on new album If I Should Go Before You, and the title track puts his voice where it belongs: out in front, bearing a ton of emotion but stopping short of overwrought.
I was a big Chairlift fan when they stuck to making diaphanous electro-pop, the kind you can hear on 2012’s Something, but I never could’ve predicted this. "Ch-Ching" is bold, bass-rich, and brilliant. It’s the sound of a band transformed by an unexpected run-in with royalty, namely the Queen Bey herself; Caroline Polachek wrote "No Angel," one of the best tracks on 2013’s Beyoncé. "Ch-Ching" invites you to consider that experience a turning point for the band’s music. If the rest of Moth sounds like this when it’s released early next year, it could become 2016’s first great album.
Disclosure, "Jaded (Lone Remix)":
Imagine producer Matt Cutler taking a perfectly capable track from Disclosure’s new album Caracal, flying it first-class to an opulent island bar, and paying for an evening’s worth of strong strawberry daiquiris: this is the product. I feel like I’m holding my hands over some kind of musical radiator when I’m listening to this — that’s how much color and light the remix is throwing off. Cutler’s a joy, and if you’re fond of this you should head straight for his 2014 LP Reality Testing. If it’s new to you, you’re in for a treat.
Dilly Dally, "Purple Rage":
There are no frills on this howler from Toronto’s Dilly Dally, and that’s just fine: searing guitars, a throat-shredding vocal, and palpable anger are the only three ingredients you need for high-quality rock. There’s also plenty more where this came from on the band’s debut LP Sore, which was released last week — it’s worth your time if you find yourself hankering for a few more crushing riffs.
Kelela’s new EP Hallucinogen was finally released last week, and "Gomenasai" is its best track. It’s confident, amorphous, and unapologetic about its sexuality. I’ve never been totally sold on Kelela as a vocalist, but she sounds fantastic here, and I can’t imagine another artist putting this kind of track and this kind of performance together in one package.
Karen Marie Ørsted scored a major international hit earlier this year by teaming up with Major Lazer and DJ Snake for "Lean On." "Kamikaze" is the first single from her as-yet-unnamed second LP, and Ørsted enlisted Diplo’s help for its production. It’s not as potent as "Lean On," but that’s a high bar to clear; it’s featherweight, vaguely tropical, and will help you forget winter’s slow creep if only for a few minutes, and that’s good enough for me.
One Direction, "Perfect":
I have just two points to make about this thoroughly agreeable, charming piece of pop-rock. First: this is the nicest, gentlest, most tender song about a crew of bad boys — "if you like cars and trouble up in hotel rooms," seriously — you could ever imagine. It’s like a teddy bear dressed up in an adorable little biker gang outfit. Second: Harry Styles has the lead writing credit on this song, and I want to acknowledge the brilliance of ripping off Taylor Swift’s "Style" — a song about Harry Styles — for what is ostensibly his rebuttal of Taylor Swift’s "Style." Harry Styles is the best songwriter on the planet, basically.
Protomartyr, "Cowards Starve":
And now for something less cuddly! This is one of the highlights on Protomartyr’s new LP The Agent Intellect, which was released last week, and it’s a stark, unsettling listen. Joe Casey isn’t a traditional singer, but he understands rhythm and intensity, and he knows how to fill in the gaps between the band’s blurry riffs. He’s a tactician, a skilled spot-picker, and that’s appropriate for Protomartyr’s intelligent, sharp brand of post-punk.
Selena Gomez, "Hands to Myself":
Selena Gomez isn’t the most powerful or distinctive vocalist in the world, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Her music benefits when she and her producers acknowledge that fact and write to accommodate it, and that’s what they do here: she’s a piece of the puzzle rather than a figure at the forefront, and her bigger moments are made to look more impressive by the gulf between them and her hushed, clipped verses. The result is something that sounds like an upper-case version of the xx, and it’s a great look for Selena. Smart writing always wins.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have an awesome weekend!